Should teachers 'promote' British values?

 
Sports spectator with abundance of Union Jacks

Come September and every school in England will be required to promote British values.

Promoting something is not the same as teaching something or having respect for something. One can respectfully disagree. One can inform without endorsing.

What Michael Gove is demanding is that every school in England tell pupils that British values are as good as or better than other people's values.

The distinction is important. Independent schools, academies and free schools must already ensure pupils "respect" British values. "This will be strengthened so that schools must 'promote' British values," says the Department for Education.

"We want to create and enforce a clear and rigorous expectation on all schools to promote the fundamental British values of democracy, rule of law, individual liberty and mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs," department officials explain.

Is that what teachers should do? We may hold these values dearly. We may believe they offer the best chance for a stable and happy society. We may regard them as superior to all others. But should children be told that as a matter of fact?

Start Quote

Would promoting the rule of law make it more difficult for schools to teach about civil disobedience? ”

End Quote

Let us take the first of those values - democracy. "Democracy is the worst form of government," Winston Churchill told the House of Commons in 1947, "except for all those other forms that have been tried from time to time."

It was a good joke, but also a reminder that there has long been a debate about the best systems of governance. Would a teacher who drew pupils' attention to the weaknesses of democracy be in breach of his duty to promote it?

Would promoting the rule of law make it more difficult for schools to teach about civil disobedience? The works of Thomas Hobbes, John Locke and John Stuart Mill wrestle with the concept of individual liberty. What definition of this controversial philosophical concept are teachers to push?

And when it comes to mutual respect and tolerance of those with different faiths and beliefs, how respectful and tolerant should one be? Traditional religious and cultural views on homosexuality, the role of women or sex outside marriage are deeply offensive to many people.

The phrase "British values" is used to mean contradictory things. For some, it is about British as opposed to foreign values, reflecting the traditional conservative instincts of the population. For others, it is about shared values of tolerance and broadmindedness within a multicultural society, a progressive ideal.

David Blunkett Former home secretary David Blunkett urged ethnic minorities to become "more British"

These two definitions do not sit happily together. One is a singular fixed identity, the other is an evolving multi-faceted concept. You cannot have both at the same time.

This is not the first time in recent years that politicians have pressed the button marked "British values". A decade ago Gordon Brown encouraged the nation to "think of a Britain rediscovering the shared values that bind us together". David Blunkett, as home secretary, urged ethnic minorities to become "more British" and swear an oath of allegiance.

After 9/11 in 2001, and again after the 7/7 bombings in London in 2005, there was much debate as to how our moderation should suffocate extremism, a belief that British tolerance and fair play be deployed as a weapon against Al Qaeda.

Now Michael Gove demands that England's schools should join the fight by promoting British values. But is that what education is about? It could be argued that instructing schools to be propagandists for anyone's values is a thoroughly un-British thing to do.

 
Mark Easton Article written by Mark Easton Mark Easton Home editor

We need Miss Marple

Is it so crazy to suggest that someone looks to see if their neighbour's stolen vase is offered for sale at the local car boot?

Read full article

More on This Story

Comments

This entry is now closed for comments

Jump to comments pagination
 
  • Comment number 810.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 809.

    Yes I think children should be taught to be proud of everything British. Ideas taught to you as a child stay with you for a lifetime. I and my age group grew up thinking everything that English was automatically the best. I grew up during WWII so some might think my ideas are outdated but I still feel the same even though I've spent most of my adult life in the USA.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 808.

    With the British and the English flag both hi-jacked by the extreme right wing, I hope that is not what is meant by British values.

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 807.

    British values?

    Animal welfare's part of that.

    So: if the EU introduce a general ban on halal slaughter (as seems perfectly possible) which side will Ukip voters take?

    Come on. Get on with it...

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 806.

    Who will be checking up on these British values? Ofsted I expect. Since one of the governors (Tahir Alam) at the centre of the Trojan Horse scandal is also an Ofsted inspector---I wonder what kind of values he would be looking for in schools that he inspects??!!

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 805.

    British values; oh dear me.

    £32 million every year to subsidise one family to dress up in funny uniforms, go partying in LA and chill on Necker Island; combined with the prospect of 3.5 million children facing absolute poverty by 2020.

    I'll let you work that one out.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 804.

    803.This is a colleague announcement
    16 Minutes ago
    799. Ultricem angelus
    "I am the Gardener and there will be no pampered exotics plants in my patch"

    ==

    So you're the weeder and leaf raker. Who's Capability Brown, then?
    *********

    Gordy?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 803.

    799. Ultricem angelus
    "I am the Gardener and there will be no pampered exotics plants in my patch"

    ==

    So you're the weeder and leaf raker. Who's Capability Brown, then?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 802.

    797.JasonEssex
    Yes Jason...'to tar all ' is wrong and I try to avoid that by making reply to or about extremists
    Nonetheless, to vote for whatever face reason for extremists tends to 'tar oneself'
    For UKIP it's too late now..So, were I of good intentions I should get rid and look for a haven that if not safe does no contain a sizeable racist & fascist core...as does UKIP/BNP
    Sad to see but...

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 801.

    @794. Ultricem angelus

    Your entire post is based on sad, disproved, Social Darwinism. It is utter nonsense.

    As for the claim that it is "Time for some human "Roundup" I think", who appointed you chooser of the living, & selector of the slain?

  • rate this
    +1

    Comment number 800.

    it doesn't matter how suicide bombers or beheadings or grooming gangs or trojan schools or benefit fraud, its NEVER an excuse for using the 'P' word or 'N' word, or ANY racist language!

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 799.

    795.Last Socialist
    I am the Gardener and there will be no pampered exotics plants in my patch.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 798.

    It will be a bit difficult to enforce the teaching of 'British Values', when no two British people can agree what they are. Are they coterminous with Scottish values? Or Welsh? Or English?

    I am certain that Mr Gove's reactionary values are NOT shared by the majority in the UK. The man is trying to use the education system to promote his own hobby-horses.....

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 797.

    789.Last Socialist
    Whilst I hate to agree with you Iat least some of those who support UKIP do so for racist reasons. However the majority of those I know who support them do so for anything but racism. They have seen public services stretched to breaking point, their own wages drop and house prices become unreachable for the majority. Don't tar everyone with the same brush, thats predjudice!

  • rate this
    -1

    Comment number 796.

    This media-perpetuated mass hysteria about Ukip submerges the simple truth: it's no more a credible political party than an ice cream van, lock-up garage, off licence, or any other entity you could just name and put on a ballot paper.

    It has a bunch of tabloid soundbite myth-based fancies as "policy", one mouthpiece, and a rich hobbyist-funded poster/leaflet campaign.

    Not much more in reality.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 795.

    794.Ultricem angelus
    You jest no doubt...
    Come on...tell us where you figure on the 'list'. for Roundup?
    or...do you 'value' your saintly life moreso?

  • Comment number 794.

    This comment was removed because the moderators found it broke the house rules. Explain.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 793.

    The big trouble with these imposed values is that they are selecting the upper class 'gentleman' twits values. Real British values of ordinary people are not silly tolerance, we can't afford it. The storming and aftermath of the siege of Badajoz are our ways.


    The Beginnings by Rudyard Kipling express it well.

  • rate this
    0

    Comment number 792.

    Suppose we pull out of the EU and abandon ECHR too.

    Now, all these British-born people, but of the "wrong religion": what country do Ukip supporters imagine will take them, if they can be "encouraged to leave". Do they not remember the NATO bombing of Belgrade for attempting a similar policy?

    What do these hallucinating fantasists think the world community would do?

    As stupid as they are nasty.

  • rate this
    +3

    Comment number 791.

    if you cannot eat a bacon butty, drink a pint of ale, laugh at the life of Brian or take any notice of pope's, immans and the like, or demand theft from hard working people in tax theft confiscation to hand out in benefits to the idle.. you are not British in my book !

 

Page 1 of 41

 

Features

BBC © 2014 The BBC is not responsible for the content of external sites. Read more.

This page is best viewed in an up-to-date web browser with style sheets (CSS) enabled. While you will be able to view the content of this page in your current browser, you will not be able to get the full visual experience. Please consider upgrading your browser software or enabling style sheets (CSS) if you are able to do so.